Access Fund Responds to Resolution Copper’s Recent Announcement of Workforce Reductions

Some of you have probably seen the recent announcement by Resolution Copper Mining (RCM) stating their intent to scale back most activities at the RCM mine due to uncertainty in the legislative and regulatory environment. This mine is located adjacent to the rock climbing areas at Oak Flat in central Arizona.

The announcement reads, in part: RCM “will reduce its overall budget from about $200 million in 2012 to about $50 million in 2013, which will result in the loss of approximately 400 jobs or about 75 percent of its overall workforce….To justify further development, we need more certainty around legislative and regulatory activity affecting Resolution Copper.... Specifically, approval of the land exchange we’ve been seeking since 2005 constitutes the critical path forward. Our efforts at RCM will be directed toward working to obtain the certainty we need.”

While we at the Access Fund are very sympathetic to those who may potentially lose their jobs, this statement links the upcoming workforce reduction to uncertainty caused by RCM’s inability to get their land exchange bill (HR 1904) passed in the United States Congress which would convey ownership of Oak Flat’s popular climbing areas to RCM for a massive copper mine. In reality however, Rio Tinto, the parent company and majority owner of RCM, simultaneously announced it was cutting back some $7 billion dollars in development and operations costs worldwide over the next two years due to a global weakening in commodity demand.

Resolution Copper’s recent announcement is thus a politically motivated attempt to gain sympathy for layoffs that they would most likely be making anyway and to pressure Congress to move their problematic legislation through the Senate. We should not let RCM succeed in this misinformation strategy.

Resolution Copper bemoans the fact that eleven versions of their land exchange bill have failed to pass through Congress over the last seven years, but RCM has only themselves to blame. If RCM had put a larger portion of their lobbying efforts into finding meaningful compromise with Oak Flat recreational users, environmental advocates and Native Americans, they might have obtained a land exchange or other authorization for their new mine. Instead, inflexibility on RCM’s part has caused them to insist on terms and conditions for their mine that are highly favorable to them at the expense of all other interested parties.

A few remarkable examples of RCM's unwillingness to be reasonable include:

  • An insistence on employing a mining method which will destroy the entire Oak Flat area and with it cause the destruction of a heavily used federally protected recreation area, while alternate mining methods which would preserve the surface and lead to greater job growth are dismissed out of hand,
  • An attempt to bypass the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and any responsible environmental analyses before a land exchange takes place,
  • Removing the Secretary of Agriculture’s ability to make a genuine determination whether this land exchange is “in the public interest” as required by most federal land exchange laws, and
  • The disregard of the cultural and traditional interests of Native Americans who use the Oak Flat area and consider it sacred.

Please let your senators know that the Oak Flat land exchange bill (HR 1904) is a bad piece of legislation and should not be passed in the current lame duck session of Congress. Please also tell your senators that HR 1904 should expire with the 112th Congress and that RCM must address all of the substantial problems in the current bill before Congress considers any future proposals. To find your US Senators, see this link.